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God Allows U-Turns for Teens

256 pages
Bethany House Publishers
March 2006
ISBN: 0764200909

Do you feel like you’re headed down a road that shouldn't be traveled? You’re not alone. Sometimes it’s too easy to find the wrong path. Sometimes you just feel lost. But God is waiting to help you turn your life around; He wants to show you the way.

This powerful collection of stories from real-life teens offers encouragement and support as you overcome poor relationships with your parents, physical or sexual abuse, drug addiction, or painful consequences. With God, all things are possible. Are you ready for a U-turn?

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Jonny's Gift of Life

By Ann Jean Czerwinski – ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA

For fifteen years, Jonny shared the gifts God gave him with everyone he knew. He was outgoing and funny. He loved his family and was never afraid to show it. He treated his friends like they were part of his family. He was a role model to the younger kids in the neighborhood, and he loved teaching them about the things he enjoyed.

Bike riding was one of Jonny's passions. Flying is actually what you would have to call it. He loved the challenge of racing his bike over wooded paths and city streets. He lived to take his bicycle airborne at any given opportunity. Children in the neighborhood gathered around Jonny as he gladly showed them how to do the tricks he had mastered. It was his gift, and he loved sharing it.

On September 22, 2000, Jonny Billingsley was riding his bike with his buddies along the streets of his Erie, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. Without a care in the world, he defied gravity over the pavement, with wings of freedom that only his bike could offer.

But this was the last night Jonny would ride his beloved bicycle. He collided with a truck on a busy city intersection, and not even the best medical intervention could have saved him. The only consolation left for his family was the fact that he died doing what he loved most, riding his bike.

It was during this terrible tragedy that Jonny's mother, Michelle Billingsley, recalled a conversation she had with her son in April of that year. He told her he wanted to be an organ donor, and that as soon as he received his driver's license, he would make sure it would say organ donor right on it. His mom was surprised with how the conversation came about and relayed it in our interview.

"Jonny's sister, Katie, was sitting at the table talking to me about a school assignment for her high school ethics class. Their assignment was to write a living will. While we were talking about her being an organ donor, Jonny walked into the room. He listened for a while, and I could tell he was giving it deep thought. He finally said, ‘I think it's a good idea. I'm a strong kid. If anything ever happened to me, I would want my organs to be donated.'

"I asked him if he knew exactly what that meant, and he answered with certainty, ‘What if someone out there is having a problem with their heart or kidney? Why would I need to keep mine if I were dead? If someone else can use them, then that's what I want.' I just smiled and winked at him and told him I would keep that in mind."

Mrs. Billingsley went on to say, "So that's how it all came about. When we were thrust into that position, there was no decision to make. It was a request we had to honor."

And that's exactly what happened. The night of the accident, when Jonny was declared brain-dead, his parents met in the cool night air outside of the Hamot Medical Center. They looked at one another and knew exactly what Jonny would tell them to do. The words were difficult to find, but they called on their faith and prayed for the Lord's strength to make this decision.

Once Jonny's request was made known to the doctors and the representatives of the Center for Organ Recovery & Education, a series of tests were performed to determine brain death, a routine procedure for organ recovery.

Because of Jonny's decision, a thirty-six-year-old mother of four in Philadelphia received a healthy heart; a fifty-six-year-old man from West Virginia received a liver; a retired psychologist in Washington, D.C. is the recipient of the left kidney and pancreas; and ironically, a fifteen-year-old boy in Virginia received a new right kidney. Jonny's bladder and prostate will be used for testing that will aid thousands of people with bladder and prostate problems.

Over eight hundred people attended the funeral mass for Jonny, and the Billingsleys were amazed at how many lives their son had touched. In his young life, he had made more friends of all ages than even he could have imagined.

Neighborhood friends and high school buddies brought gifts to the accident scene, and it didn't take long to transform the telephone pole on the corner into a small memorial. Teddy bears, flowers, candles, and angels were placed at the site—an affirmation of friendship. This place also served as a place to pray, cry, and heal.

Jonny's friends struggled with his death, and they gathered in his bedroom to talk, cry, and try to make sense out of their incredible loss. One evening, after the kids left, Jonny's parents found a folded-up piece of paper lying on their son's bed. They sat down and read it together. It said, I know his name will never pop up on my Buddy list again; however, it will remain there forever.

Throughout his life, Jonathon Billingsley gave his family love and joy. Now, through his death, he brings them pride in his decision to help others. Jonny was unselfish in life, and a part of him now lives on in the recipients of his organs. Maybe someday Jonny's family will meet these people, but for now, his parents are content knowing their teenage son made a better life for others.

Excerpted from God Allows U-Turns for Teens compiled by Allison Bottke (with Cheryl Hutchings), copyright © 2006; ISBN 0764201816. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.


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